31 December 2009

Vishnuvardhan: Best/Top Movies

Vishnuvardhan, Kannada movie actor, passed away yesterday. He was 59.

He acted in 200 films in a career spanning 36 years, from Vamsha Vriksha (1972) to Apta Rakshaka (2008).

I am not an authority on VV's movies. Based on my limited viewing, these are his best/top movies and most memorable performances:

1. Bhootayyana Maga Ayyu (1974)
Gorur Ramaswami Iyengar's novel comes to the big screen. Lokesh is the zamindar Ayyu, but VV as the fiery villager Gulla steals the show.

2. Bandhana (1984)
A doctor (VV), his colleague (Suhasini) and her jealous husband (Jai Jagadish) make up the triangle in this hit movie of the 1980s.

3. Malaya Maruta (1986)
A poor boy becomes a famous classical singer, with the blessings of his deceased guru. An excellent score by Vijaybhaskar makes this a treat for music lovers.

4. Suprabhata (1988)
VV falls in love with a deaf-mute girl who turns out to be a rape victim. A sensitive love story, with a fine performance from Suhasini.

5. Muttina Haara (1990)
The story of a soldier: 1948 Pakistan war - injured - falls in love - marries - 1962 China war - captured - tortured - meets a hero's end. Moving, inspiring, patriotic.

6. Nishkarsha (1993)
A bunch of terrorists take control of a building and hold some civilians hostage. Enter the Anti Terrorist Squad and Major VV. Kannada cinema's first Hollywood-style action movie.

29 December 2009

India: Cities, Towns, Villages

Here is a snapshot look at India's cities, towns and villages:

Population Range
Total Number*
Share in India's Population
> 1,00,000
10,000 – 1,00,000
< 10,000

Cities are usually district capitals, while towns are usually taluk capitals.


24 December 2009

23 December 2009

Alvin Toffler on the Modern World/Age

Alvin Toffler on the modern world/age in "The Third Wave" (1980):

Until now the human race has undergone two great waves of change, each one largely obliterating earlier cultures or civilisations and replacing them with ways of life inconceivable to those who came before. The First Wave of change – the agricultural revolution – took thousands of years to play itself out. The Second Wave – the rise of industrial civilisation – took a mere three hundred years.
(First chapter)

Some historians may take issue with the way this book divides civilisation into only three parts: a First Wave agricultural phase, a Second Wave industrial phase, and a Third Wave phase now beginning.

A new civilisation is emerging in our lives, and blind men everywhere are trying to suppress it.
(First line of the book)

22 December 2009

A Short Economic History of Modern India

Swaminathan Aiyar, in a brilliant article*, gives us a short economic history of modern India:

At last week's annual meeting of the World Bank and IMF, many speakers spoke of the need for governments to reduce controls and trade barriers and let entrepreneurs get on with the job. They also stressed the vital roles that governments did indeed need to perform: ensuring law and order, the enforcement of contracts, honest governance and the creation of basic infrastructure.

Dissenters will say this sounds suspiciously close to the formula of the British Raj. The result then was not prosperity but poverty and stagnation. Now that we are in our 50th anniversary year of independence, many people will ask: why did liberal economics prove an economic failure during the British Raj? And why should it be any more successful today?

Before the Industrial Revolution, India was the second biggest industrial power in the world (next only to China). When the British Raj ended in 1947, India was a poverty-stricken nation with minimal modern industry. Nationalist leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru blamed this decline on colonial exploitation. The British did not see it that way. They thought they had brought peace to a subcontinent that was earlier riven with constant war; had created political stability and rule of law where there had been neither; created an efficient and impartial civil service and judiciary; built one of the biggest railway networks in the world.

However, GDP growth in the first half of this century was barely 1% per year, just keeping pace with population growth. Food availability per capita declined. Indian artisans, who once dominated world industry, were decimated by the Industrial Revolution. And while in Europe the Industrial Revolution replaced handloom weavers with local textile mills, in India it replaced them largely with Lancashire textiles. Jawaharlal Nehru complained that this de-industrialisation halved India's urban population and forced once-prosperous industrial workers back to the land. He felt free trade was a British ploy to force its manufactures on India and prevent Indian industry from growing.

So after independence Nehru went for rapid industrialisation through import substitution and by taxing agriculture through adverse terms of trade. He felt agriculture lacked the potential to reduce poverty or increase employment and could only be a holding ground for surplus labour till industry provided additional jobs.

During the British Raj, India ran a persistent trade surplus. The ratio of India's exports to imports was 172.5% in 1840-69, 148% in 1870-1912, 133.4% in 1913-38. This persistent trade surplus, averaging 1.5% of GDP, was used to transfer wealth to Britain. So Nehru viewed export-orientation as a tool of colonial exploitation. He switched the emphasis from exports to import substitution. He viewed technical education as vital for industrialisation, but viewed primary education as less important and so did less for literacy than East Asian countries.

This strategy was initially hailed as a success. GDP growth rose to 3.5% per year, almost thrice the rate achieved in the last 50 years of the British Raj. Planning was high fashion at the time and Indian planning was at the very forefront of development economics. Only much later did East Asian countries demonstrate that 3.5% growth was slow, not fast, and that a different strategy – emphasising exports, agriculture and primary education and entrepreneurship – could produce much better results.

Nehru's biggest mistake related to agriculture. He failed to see, as Korea and Taiwan did, that with enough public investment and new technology, agriculture could be a dynamic sector that raised the living standards of the masses. The industrial sector was much too small to create much income or employment and so taxing agriculture to finance industrialisation did not reduce poverty in India during Nehru's rule or the Garibi Hatao phase of Indira Gandhi. It started declining only from the mid-1970s onwards, when the spread of the green revolution finally lowered real food prices and raised real rural wages. Higher rural incomes provided a firmer basis for rapid industrial growth than Nehru's earlier import substitution.

Nehru failed to see that the really big blow India suffered under the British was not in industry but agriculture. Ashok Desai estimates that grain yields in 1947 were one third of those in Mughal times. In the first half of this century, food production rose by only 0.5% per year, half the rate of population growth. This, not de-industrialisation, was the main cause of poverty in a country which was 85% rural.

The whole de-industrialisation thesis was flawed. Certainly the artisans of old suffered, but under the Raj a new breed of modern Indian entrepreneurs came up. The share of industry in India's GDP rose from 3.8 percent in 1913 to 7.5% by 1947 and the share of manufactures in India's exports rose from 22.4% in 1913 to 30% in the late 1930s. Modern industry employed fewer persons than the old artisan industry, but its output was more competitive.

Nehru's anti-export bias was mistaken. The British may have used trade exploitatively, but it had enormous possibilities with the end of empire. The East Asians saw this, but were regarded with contempt by Nehru as US puppets. They had the last laugh.

Let us return to where we started. Why did liberal economics and good governance not lead to prosperity during the British Raj? The main reasons are:
  • The British sadly neglected agriculture and rural infrastructure, far more so than industry.
  • The British Raj was racist, favouring British entrepreneurs and goods over Indian ones. This racism was probably important that the alleged lack of tariff encouragement to Indian manufacturers.
  • The British sadly neglected primary education and literacy. By contrast, East Asian countries had high levels of literacy by 1950.
  • The British used India's trade surpluses to remit capital to the UK instead of investing it in India's growth.
Today, all these conditions have changed. We now have a government that, however imperfectly, understands the importance of agriculture and rural development. It aims at improving the fortunes of Indians, not Englishmen. It has, imperfectly, improved primary education. In place of the colonial capital drain, there is now a large capital inflow that helps develop the economy. In these circumstances, a liberal economy and good governance can produce good results.

*"De-industrialisation Thesis Was Flawed", The Times of India (29 September 1996)

27 November 2009

Technology, Economy, Politics, Culture

Some points about the T-E-P-C concept mentioned in the previous post:

1. The four basic aspects of society are technology, economy, politics and culture. There are other aspects of society, but these are the most important.

2. These four aspects are not independent. They are inter-dependent. That is, each of the four aspects influences the other three.

3. The four aspects are not equal in the degree to which they influence the other aspects. Some aspects are "stronger" than others.
Example: Both X and Y influence each other. But X influences Y more than Y influences X. Then X is said to be stronger than Y.

4. The four aspects can be arranged in the ascending order of their strength (or importance/influence):
a) Technology
b) Economy
c) Politics
d) Culture
(Thus we have the T-E-P-C abbreviation)

5. The higher order aspects (culture and politics) influence or determine the lower order aspects (economy and technology) – normally.

6. But sometimes there can be a major change in a lower order aspect. Then the direction of influence is reversed. That is, it becomes possible for the lower order aspects to influence or determine the higher order aspects .
(The "fundamental change" discussed in the previous post)

7. Such a major change in the lower order aspects has happened only twice in human history:
a) The invention of agriculture (c10,000 BC)
b) The Industrial Revolution (c1800 AD)

8. On both these occasions, the initial changes were in technology and the economy. But they led to changes in politics and culture as well.

9. T-E-P-C is different for:
a) Different civilisations (ex: India vs China vs America)
b) Different Ages (ex: Agricultural Age vs Industrial Age)

10. Between two civilisations (belonging to the same Age), the differences between each of the four aspects are not of the same magnitude. The four aspects can be arranged in the ascending order of the magnitude of their difference between two civilisations (belonging to the same Age):
a) Technology
b) Economy
c) Politics
d) Culture
(Again we have the T-E-P-C abbreviation)

11. That is, between two civilisations (belonging to the same Age), differences in technology are nil to slight, in economy and politics are slight to significant, and in culture are significant to maximum.

1. Technology = how man makes and does things.
2. Economy = how man produces goods (and services), and distributes them.
3. Politics = how man makes collective decisions.
4. Culture = how man lives, i.e., his way of life – his customs, habits, beliefs, practices, values, norms, systems and institutions.

26 November 2009

Modernity: The Modern or Industrial Age

To understand modernity correctly, we must understand the implications of the Industrial Revolution (1775-1850):

1. The Industrial Revolution, which took place in 18th century England, gave birth to machines and factories (modern industry).

2. The Industrial Revolution was not merely a technological, or economic, change. It brought about political, and cultural, changes as well. Indeed, it changed society itself.

3. The Industrial Revolution was a fundamental change in how man produces goods, or satisfies his wants. The last time such a fundamental change occurred was when agriculture was invented – around 10,000 BC (12,000 years ago).

4. Whenever there is such a fundamental change in how man produces goods, it is not just technology or economy that changes, but also politics and culture. Indeed, society itself changes.

5. The Industrial Revolution was such a change. (That's why it's called "Revolution")

6. The Industrial Revolution marked the end of the Agricultural Age, which lasted for 12,000 years, and the beginning of a new Age in the history of mankind: the Industrial Age.

7. Each Age is defined by its own technology, economy, politics and culture (T-E-P-C) – in the broadest sense. Just as the Agricultural Age had a certain T-E-P-C, similarly the Industrial Age also has its own T-E-P-C.

8. The Industrial Revolution may have occurred first in the West, but it was not a Western development. It was a human development. That is, it concerns the whole of mankind, not just Europe.

9. Just as agriculture began first in Sumeria (around 10,000 BC) and then spread to other ancient civilisations (Egypt, India, China), similarly, modern industry began first in Europe and then spread/is spreading to other civilisations (first to America and Japan, now to China and India).

10. In modern industry, production is more. That is, wealth created is more. So an industrial society has more wealth than a non-industrialised society. Wealth means economic strength. Thus an industrialised society is stronger than a non-industrialised society. Therefore we have to industrialise.


1. The term 'modern industry' is used to distinguish it from the earlier 'cottage industry' where manufacturing was done by artisans and craftsmen in their homes and workshops, using simple tools.

6. The terms 'Agricultural' and 'Industrial' are used in a relative sense – to denote which sector dominates the economy (in value of total output) and society (in population employed).

8. Due to certain geographical and historical factors, the Industrial Revolution happened to take place first in Europe, that's all.

25 November 2009

Turgot: The Idea of Economic Stages of History

Anne Robert Jacques Turgot (1727-1781) was a French administrator and economist. He served as comptroller general of France from 1774 to 1776. In his work Plan of Two Discourses on Universal History (1750), he divided the history of the world into three (economic) stages:
1. Hunting
2. Pastoralism
3. Agriculture
(Remember - this was before the Industrial Revolution)

Later, Adam Smith made the idea famous in his Wealth of Nations (1776). He divided human history into four stages:
1. Age of hunters
2. Age of shepherds
3. Age of agriculture
4. Age of commerce
(This was also just before the Industrial Revolution)

In our own time, we divide history into these three stages:
1. Hunting-gathering (primitive)
2. Agricultural (traditional)
3. Industrial (modern)

Today this view of history is commonplace. The credit for originating the idea belongs to A R J Turgot.

Some thinkers like Alain Touraine, Daniel Bell and Alvin Toffler divide history (implicitly or explicitly) into these stages:
1. Agricultural
2. Industrial
3. Post-Industrial
Even they are children walking in Turgot's footsteps.

24 November 2009

The Three Stages in the History of the World

Based on how man satisfies his needs, that is, based on how man produces goods, the history of the world can be divided into the following three stages:

1. Hunting-gathering (began 2,00,000 years ago)
2. Agricultural (began 12,000 years ago)
3. Industrial (began 200 years ago)

These stages can also be called, respectively:
1. Primitive
2. Traditional
3. Modern

The primitive stage of hunting-gathering corresponds to pre-history, while the traditional/agricultural and modern/industrial stages together correspond to history.

History is usually classified into three periods: ancient, medieval and modern. The periodisation, in the case of Europe and India, is like this:

AncientClassical age of Greece and Rome (–500 AD)The Hindu period (–712 AD)
MedievalChristian age of the Catholic Church (500–1500 AD)The Islamic period (712–1707 AD)
ModernSecular/humanistic age after the Renaissance (1500 AD– )The European period (1707 AD– )

So the 'Modern' period is different for different civilisations*. However, when speaking of the history of mankind as a whole, the Modern Age is the Industrial Age (and 'modernity' refers to industrial society). When did this Modern Age begin?

The Industrial Age began with the Industrial Revolution, which occurred from 1775 to 1850. However, most of the major developments happened between 1775 and 1800. Therefore, 1800 can be taken as a convenient year for the birth of the modern world.

Btw, the Ancient and Medieval periods together come under the Agricultural/ Traditional stage.

*The word 'modern' means 'present' or 'contemporary' (from Latin 'modo' = 'just now').

23 November 2009

The Best Books about the Modern World

The best books to understand today's world:

Society, Technology, Economy
1. The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848 – Eric Hobsbawm (1962)*
2. The Third Wave – Alvin Toffler (1980)

Culture, Religion
1. The Clash of Civilisations – Samuel Huntington (1996)
2. The Lexus and the Olive Tree – Thomas Friedman (1999)

1. The End of History – Francis Fukuyama (1992)
2. The Future of Freedom – Fareed Zakaria (2003)

Based on my limited reading, these are the definitive books about the modern world.

*I have not yet read this book.

14 November 2009

M Vishweshwarayya: Life and Achievements

M Vishweshwarayya (1860-1962) is the architect of modern Karnataka. A look at his life and achievements:

Early Life and Education (1860-1883)
  • 15 September 1860 - Born in Muddenahalli village near Chikkaballapur, Karnataka.
  • The initial 'M' stands for Mokshagundam - his family's native village in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Second son of Srinivas Shastri, a Sanskrit scholar, and Venkatalakshmamma.
  • Attended primary school at Muddenahalli, middle school at Chikkaballapur and high school at Bangalore.
  • In Bangalore, supported himself by giving tuitions to children. Studied at night under streetlights. (No, this is not a cliche)
  • Lost his father at the age of 15. First rank in the matriculation exam in Mysore state.
  • Did his BA at Central College, Bangalore. First rank in Madras University.
  • Studied Civil Engineering at Science College, Poona. (Today's College of Engineering Pune - COEP)
Engineer (1884-1912)
  • 1884 - Joined the PWD of Bombay Presidency as Assistant Engineer.
  • Built automatic floodgates for Khadakvasla reservoir, near Poona.
  • Built a system to supply drinking water at Aden, Egypt.
  • 1906 - Awarded the "Kaiser-i-Hind" by the British government.
  • 1908 - Resigned from the PWD. In spite of his many achievements he was not made Chief Engineer. The post was reserved for whites/Englishmen.
  • At the request of the Nizam of Hyderabad, built dams for Moosi and Iyasi rivers near Hyderabad, to protect the city from floods.
  • 1909 - Became Chief Engineer of Mysore state, then ruled by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV (1902-40).
Diwan of Mysore (1912-1918)
  • 1913 - Founded the Mysore Bank (today's State Bank of Mysore). The British did not want India to industrialise. Indian entrepreneurs could not get capital to set up industries. So MV founded the Mysore Bank.
  • 1916 - Founded the Mysore University. Mysore's higher education broke free of the British-run Madras University.
  • 1916 - Founded the Government Soap Factory at Mysore. Today the Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Ltd (KSDL) - maker of the world-famous Mysore Sandal Soap.
  • 1917 - Founded the Government Engineering College at Bangalore. Today the University Vishweshwarayya College of Engineering (UVCE).
  • Gave great importance to women's education. 1917 - Upgraded the Maharani's College at Mysore to a degree college.
  • Revived the Mysore Iron and Steel Works (MISW) at Bhadravati. Today the Visvesvaraya Iron and Steel Plant (VISL).
  • Built the Krishnaraja Sagar dam (1911-31) on the Kaveri river near Mysore.
  • Started the Sharavati Hydro-Electric Project at Jog Falls near Shimoga.
  • Built the Bangalore-Mysore railroad.
  • Built the Bhatkal harbour.
  • Started the civil service exams in Mysore state.
  • 1915 - Awarded the Knight Commander of the Indian Empire (KCIE) by the British government.
Retirement (1918-1962)
  • 1940 - Persuaded industrialist Walchand Hirachand to found the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) at Bangalore.
  • 1943 - Founded the Sri Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic Institute with his earnings from MISW.
  • Consulting engineer for Karachi, Bombay, Nashik, Poona, Belgaum, Dharwad, Indore and Gwalior - mainly for water supply projects.
  • 1955 - Awarded the Bharat Ratna by the Indian government.
  • 14 April 1962 - Died at the age of 101.
Source: "Sir M Vishweshwarayya" by Ananthram (Student Book House, Mangalore).

21 October 2009

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution refers to a series of technological advancements in 18th century England:

Steam Engine
1776 - Separate condenser (James Watt)
1784 - Reciprocating to rotary motion (James Watt)
Iron Making
1784 - Puddling and rolling (Henry Cort)
Textile Industry
1765 - Spinning jenny (James Hargreaves)
1769 - Water frame (Richard Arkwright)
1779 - Spinning mule (Samuel Crompton)
1787 - Power loom (Edmund Cartwright)
1825 - Stockton-Darlington railway
1829 - Liverpool-Manchester railway

The Industrial Revolution spread from Britain to Europe and then to other countries. Industrialisation of different countries:

1775-1850  – Britain
1815-1870  – West Europe (Belgium, France, Germany)
1840-1900 – United States
1890-1915  – Japan

In a sense, the Industrial Revolution is still going on. 'Waves' of the Industrial Revolution:

1. First Wave (1775-1850)
a) Steam engine
b) Iron making
c) Textile industry
d) Railways

2. Second Wave (1830-1915)
a) Electricity
b) Internal combustion engine
c) Synthetic materials

3. Third Wave (1900-today)
a) Nuclear energy
b) Electronics
c) Computers

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

03 October 2009

Swami Vivekananda at Chicago

11 September 1893, Chicago - The World Parliament of Religions:

Sisters and Brothers of America,

It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us.

I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world.

I thank you in the name of the mother of religions.

I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.

I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance.

We believe not only in universal toleration but we accept all religions as true.

I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.

It was not a speech. It was the roar of a lion.
The world would never see India the same way again.
Indians would never see themselves the same way again.

All because of one man.
Narendranath Dutta, aka Swami Vivekananda.

A proud representative of a 5000-year-old civilisation (India).
A proud representative of a 5000-year-old way of life (Hinduism).

Today, more than 115 years after that historic day, let us reaffirm our loyalty to our civilisation and our way of life.

21 September 2009

Modernity: Definition and Features

What is modernity? What is its definition? What are its features? Again, from the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Modernisation is the transformation of society through the development of industry and technology, accompanied by far-reaching political and social changes.

A key feature of a modern society is its application of scientific knowledge to the production of goods and services, with an emphasis on maximising efficiency.

Modernisation affects all of society, including the economic, political and social systems. In the economic sphere, modernisation takes the form of industrialisation.

is necessary for the rise and maintenance of any modern society.

An orientation towards knowledge, technology and economy is basic to modern civilisation.

The three drivers of modernity are:
1. Experimental science
2. Scientific technology
3. Production-oriented economy

The economy ceases to be oriented mainly towards consumption and comes to place its main emphasis on production as its goal. This involves a shift towards production for further production, that is, capital investment.

The process of modernisation is a kind of permanent revolution, without any final goal. One can distinguish various phases of modernity, with the contemporary scene even offering glimpses of a "post-modern" one.

The superiority or desirability of modernity remains an open question.

20 September 2009

Modernity: Secularisation

A key feature of modernity is secularisation. From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Secularisation consists of the following features:

1. Action by Choice
Prescribed actions are those in which an individual is expected to behave in a specific way. Actions by choice are those in which the individual selects his own course of action, and is obliged only to observe certain general rules in making his choice. In traditional societies, most actions are prescribed actions. In modern societies, most actions are actions by choice. Example: choosing one's profession or spouse.

2. Acceptance of Change
Pre-modern societies do not accept change in most of their institutions. In modern societies, change is expected or required. Pre-modern societies institutionalise tradition. Modern societies institutionalise change.

3. Differentiation of Institutions
Societies vary in the number and nature of the institutions devoted to carrying on essential functions such as the provision of goods and services, defence against military attack, education, religion, etc. Pre-modern civilisations show a considerable differentiation of institutions, but these involve only a tiny minority of the population, such as priests, warriors and traders. All institutions in the traditional society are dominated by the same values and norms.

In modern society, the differentiation of institutions and social division of labour proceed almost without limit. The institutions become more and more autonomous. All human activities are fragmented by increasing specialisation.

Increasing secularisation leads away from a single system of values toward pluralism in values. Such pluralism tends to erode the very foundation of an integrated social system: its common core of shared values and norms.

16 September 2009

Swapan Dasgupta on Modernity (Vs Hindutva)

Swapan Dasgupta says the BJP must dump Hindutva and embrace modernity instead. He seems to be obsessed with modernity. Check out for yourself:

In short, the BJP must embrace modernity, be in a position to re-forge meaningful alliances and relegate identity politics to the backburner. (August 2009)

If India is changing and the RSS has already said that it is open to change, in that case the BJP has the duty to uphold modernity keeping in mind some of the basic fundamentals. (August 2009)

Former prime minister and BJP patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee represented modernity in a traditional idiom. (Ditto)

It reveals an unfortunate streak of adventurism that deflects attention from the more urgent business at hand: forging an enlightened nationalist agenda centred on security, growth, modernity and good governance. (June 2009)

Enlightened nationalism, good governance and modernity must become the party's (the BJP's) priorities. (June 2009)

Enlightened nationalism and modernity should become the two defining attributes of the BJP. (May 2009)

Yet, it is undeniable that the crucial swing votes which enabled the Congress to win more than 200 seats on its own came from two sections that are in the frontline of change and modernity: the middle classes and the youth. (May 2009)

The BJP leadership is seen as completely unresponsive to youth aspirations and modernity. (May 2009)

Narendra Modi became a passionate advocate of modernity and efficient governance. (April 2009)

The issue that is foremost in the mind of the RSS - which Bhagwat alluded to in his first public address after assuming charge - is the challenge of "modernity". (March 2009)

India has wholeheartedly embraced modern technology; it is wary of the cultural baggage that comes with modernity. (February 2009)

Tragically, this impatience with extremism has been misread by the Facebook brigade as thumbs-up for elevating the pub and pub-going women into symbols of Indian modernity. (Ditto)

It is a fitting rebuff to the mindset that deems Omar Abdullah's eloquent insensitivity in the Lok Sabha an iconic assertion of cosmopolitan modernity. (August 2008)

His (Narendra Modi's) opponents on the ground naturally include all those who are either disconcerted by or feel left out by this rush towards entrepreneurial modernity. (December 2007)

This disconcerting facet of modernity* appears to have escaped the Bharatiya Janata Party president, L K Advani. (June 2005)
*an electorate that lives for the present and dreams of the future

Today, the BJP is confronted with a stark choice: transforming defeat into defeatism or settling for ideological honesty and a touch of modernity. (August 2004)

Yes, 2004. Dr Dasgupta has been giving this advice for the last 5 years.

27 August 2009

This Is A War...

From "The Matrix Reloaded" (2003):

Morpheus: This is a war, and we are soldiers. Death can come to us any time, any place. Now consider the alternative. What if I am right? What if the prophecy is true? What if tomorrow the war could be over? Isn't that worth fighting for? Isn't that worth dying for?

See my post on India's war.

21 August 2009

Swami Vivekananda Quotes

Some quotes from my all-time favourite hero/icon/idol, Swami Vivekananda:


If you look, you will find that I have never quoted anything but the Upanishads. And of the Upanishads, it is only that one idea strength. The quintessence of the Vedas and Vedanta and all lies in that one word.

Wanted: Men

Men, men, these are wanted: everything else will be ready, but strong, vigorous, believing young men, sincere to the backbone, are wanted. A hundred such men and the world becomes revolutionised.


Stand up and fight! Not one step back, that is the idea. Fight it out, whatever comes. Let the stars move from the spheres! Let the whole world stand against us! Death means only a change of garment. What of it? Thus fight! You gain nothing by becoming cowards. Taking a step backward, you do not avoid any misfortune! ... Arise! Awake! Stand up and fight!

Rise of Nations

And if we read the history of nations between the lines, we shall always find that the rise of a nation comes with an increase in the number of such men; and the fall begins when this pursuit after the Infinite, however vain the utilitarians may call it, has ceased. That is to say, the mainspring of every race lies in its spirituality, and the death of that race begins the day that spirituality wanes and materialism gains ground.


Sacrifice in the past has been the Law, it will be, alas, for ages to come. The earth's bravest and best will have to sacrifice themselves for the good of many, for the welfare of all. Buddhas by the hundred are necessary with eternal love and pity.

Work and Love

There are many things to be done, but means are wanting in this country. We have brains, but no hands. We have the doctrine of Vedanta, but we have not the power to reduce it into practice. ... I too believe that India will awake again, if anyone could love with all his heart the people of the country – bereft of the grace of affluence, of blasted fortune, their discretion totally lost, downtrodden, ever-starved, quarrelsome, and envious. Then only will India awake, when hundreds of large-hearted men and women, giving up all desires of enjoying the luxuries of life, will long and exert themselves to their utmost for the well-being of the millions of their countrymen.

Feel, Feel, Feel

Feel, my children, feel; feel for the poor, the ignorant, the downtrodden; fell till the heart stops and brain reels and you think you will go mad; then pour the soul out at the feet of the Lord, and then will come power, help, and indomitable energy.

Have No Fear

Be not anxious. It is against the big tree that the great wind strikes. When there comes affliction in the heart, when the storm of sorrow blows all around, and it seems light will be seen no more, when hope and courage are almost gone, it is then, in the midst of this great spiritual tempest, that the light of Brahman within gleams. Brought up in the lap of luxury, lying on a bed of roses, and never shedding a tear, who has ever become great, who has ever unfolded the Brahman within?

18 August 2009

Patriotic Song on India - 2

"Maate Poojaka Naanu Ennaya" is a patriotic song (in Kannada) on India that is popular in the RSS:

mAte poojaka nAnu ennaya SiravaniDuvenu aDiyali
ninna keertiyu jagadi mereyali ondE Aseyu manadali

eDaru toDarugaLella tuLiyuta munde nugguve bharadali
ninna nAma ninAdavAgali Sramipe nA prati kShaNadali
ninna gouravakeduru baruva balava murivenu chhaladali
jagada janani bhArata ida kELi naliyuve manadali

naguta naliyuva ninna vadanava nODi nalivudu ennede
ninna duHkhita vadana veekShise siDivudennaya hRudayavu
ninna mukhadali gelavu taralu neerugaiyuve raktava
enna kaNakaNa tEdu basiyuve poorNa jeevanaSaktiya

ninna tEjava jagavu nODali urive deepada teradali
enna Saktiya ghRutava satatavu ereyutiruvenu bharadali
mAtRumandira beLagutirali nAnE nandA deevige
batti teradee dEha uriyali sArthakate ee bALige

rudranAgi virOdhi viShavanu bharadi nAnada nunguve
jagava mechchisi adara hRudayava ninneDege nA seLeyuve
sRujipe jagadi ninna poojipa kOTi kOTi bhaktara
keerti Sikharadi mAte manDisu arpisuve nA sarvavA

My crude English translation:

Mother, I am your worshipper; I lay my head at your feet.
May your glory shine in this world; this is my only wish. (Refrain)

I will march ahead, trampling all hurdles and obstacles.
I will toil every moment so that your name rings out.
I will destroy any force that challenges your honour.
India is the mother of the world - I will hear this and rejoice.

Seeing your face smiling and happy gladdens my heart.
Seeing your face full of sorrow shatters my heart.
I will pour my blood like water to bring victory to your face.
I will grind every cell of my body and pour all my life's energy.

I will burn like a lamp so that the world sees your greatness.
I will keep pouring my strength like fuel forever.
May the Mother's temple shine brightly; I am the eternal lamp.
May this body burn like a wick; this life will be fulfilled.

I will become Shiva and drink the enemy's poison.
I will win the world's heart and draw it towards you.
I will create millions of devotees in the world who will worship you.
O Mother, be seated on the peak of glory; I offer my everything.

17 August 2009

Patriotic Song on India - 1

"Parashivalaya Vara Himalaya" is a patriotic song (in Kannada) on India that is popular in the RSS:

paraSivAlaya vara himAlaya jvalisu oDalina jvAleya
hirime mahimeya O nagAdhipa dahisu nADina vairiya

sattu malaguta nettarittaru enitO sAsira yOdharu
tamma neladoLe hemme chhaladoLe mAtegarpitarAdaru
atta heNNina kaNNa neeride hetta oDaladu cheeride
surida nettara sEDinuttara neeDirennuta naraLide

veera dAhiranoDane bALida sindhu dESadoLaDagida
khaDga bandhuve seeLu dAsyava ELu mElake negeyuta
pRuthvirAjana samarasimhana kooDi mlEchchhara kaDiyuta
mereda lOhave dAha ninnadu taNiva kShaNavido bandide

kAlpi jhAnsiya maNNoLaDagida dAhadali bAyArida
raktasnAnada bayake teerada poorvajara parivArada
tAntya nAnA kuvarasimhara karadoLADida kuSalare
nooru varShada nidde indige sAku lOhada geLeyare

namma himanaga namma nela jala endu nuDivudE nAlige?
Sraddhe bhaktiya kAryakiLisuva balavihude kaikAlige?
nammadAgiha teerthakShEtrava tuLiyutiralari rakkasa
eddu nillali grAmagrAmada rAmalakShmaNa tApasa

mooru dikkina kaDala taDiyindODi banniri banniri
malagidukkina tukkanoresuta geluvu niSchitavenniri
yAva mAteya yAva maNNina makkaLembuda tOriri
balige hasidiha Sastra hiriyuta SatrusEneyaniriyiri

Here is my crude English translation:

O abode of Shiva, mighty Himalaya, set your body on fire!
O great Lord-of-the-mountains, destroy the enemies of our country! (Refrain)

How many thousand warriors fell dead, pouring their blood
In their land with proud resolve, offering themselves to the Mother.
See their women's tears; hear the screams of their mothers' wombs.
The spilt blood is suffering, and cries out for vengeance.

You lived with the brave Dahir, hidden in the land of Sindh.
O brother sword, smash this slavery; jump up and rise!
You chopped the Mlecchas with the lion in battle, Prithviraj.
O shining steel, the moment to quench your heat has arrived!

Buried in the sands of Kalpi and Jhansi, thirsting in the heat,
The desire for bloodbath not sated, of our forefathers' family.
O sharp ones who played in the hands of Tatya, Nana and Kunwar Singh,
O friends of steel, a hundred years of sleep ends today!

When will we say, "Our snow mountains, our land, our water"?
Do our limbs have the strength to turn faith and devotion into action?
Our holy places are being trampled by foes and demons.
Let the worshippers of Rama-Lakshmana rise in every village!

Come, come running from the shores of the three seas.
Wipe the rust off the sleeping iron; say that victory is assured.
Show which mother's and which soil's sons you are.
The weapon is hungry for sacrifice; slash the enemy hordes!

28 July 2009

Heroism, the Contempt for Happiness

Kenneth Clark on heroism in "Civilisation" (1969):

Seen by itself, the David's body might be an unusually taut and vivid work of antiquity. It is only when we come to the head that we are aware of a spiritual force the ancient world never knew. I suppose that this quality, which I may call heroic, is not a part of most people's idea of civilisation. It involves a contempt for convenience and a sacrifice of all those pleasures that contribute to what we call civilised life. It is the enemy of happiness. And yet we recognise that to despise material obstacles, and even to defy the blind forces of fate, is man's supreme achievement. And since, in the end, civilisation depends on man extending his powers of mind and spirit to the utmost, we must reckon the emergence of Michelangelo as one of the great events in the history of Western man.

22 July 2009

Hindu Conservatism: Dharma or Moral Order

From Russell Kirk's "Ten Conservative Principles":

First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it. Human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.

This word 'order' signifies harmony. There are two aspects or types of order: the inner order of the soul, and the outer order of the commonwealth. 25 centuries ago Plato taught this doctrine. But even the educated nowadays find it difficult to understand. The problem of order has been a principal concern of conservatives ever since 'conservative' became a term of politics.

Our 20th century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order. Like the atrocities and disasters of Greece in the 5th century BC, the ruin of great nations in our century shows us the pit into which societies fall that mistake clever self interest, or ingenious social controls, for pleasing alternatives to an old-fangled moral order.

It has been said by liberal intellectuals that the conservative believes all social questions, at heart, to be questions of private morality. Properly understood, this statement is quite true. A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honour, will be a good society – whatever political machinery it may utilise. While a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society – no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be.

This is one of the similarities between Hindu conservatism and Western conservatism. In Hindu thought, of course, we know this moral order as Dharma.

29 June 2009

Indian (Hindu) Political Thought

Ranjit Hoskote had written an article in the 'Times of India' (29 July 1998) on ancient Indian (Hindu) political thought. Here is an abridged version:

The Marriage of Power and Wisdom

Even so long ago as the Vedic period, Indian thinkers were preoccupied with the question of making power answerable to wisdom rather than rejoicing in autocracy. This is the tradition of thought to which the savant Ananda Coomaraswamy drew attention in his little known but fascinating study, "Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power in the Indian Theory of Government" (1942).

In this work, Coomaraswamy drew on texts like the Vajasaneyi Samhita and the Satpatha Brahmana to arrive at an alternative understanding of kingship, its responsibilities and goals. To Coomaraswamy, the problem of governance was best defined in terms of the relationship between the principles of kshatra and brahma. In early Aryan polity, kshatra was the temporal power held by the king, while brahma was the spiritual authority symbolised by the priest.

Coomaraswamy invites us to consider the coronation ritual (found in the Aitareya Brahmana, 8.27) during which the priest consecrates the king with the words: "I am That, you are This; I am sky, you are earth; I am harmony, you are the words. Let us two unite our houses."

The metaphor of the ideal marriage between king and priest reflects the importance the Vedic thinkers attached to governance, as against mere government. In this model, kingship is not an excuse for indulging one's appetite for control, nor is it a mechanical procedure of administration. Kingship is, rather, a sacred mandate to hold power in trust and use it responsibly for the general good – a mandate the king receives from the priest.

Coomaraswamy illustrated this concept of regulated authority by appeal to the Vedic deity Maitravarunau: Mitra (the sun god) and Varuna (the sky god) conjoined in one presence. Maitravarunau incarnates the duality of perfect rule: the marriage of energy and restraint, power and wisdom, consciousness and life. In the Satpatha Brahmana (4.1.4) we read: "Mitra is the counsel, Varuna is the power; Mitra the priest, Varuna the king; Mitra the knower, Varuna the actor... Whatever deed Varuna did that was not quickened by Mitra was unsuccessful... Whatever deed that Varuna did, quickened by Mitra, came to fruition."

Maitravarunau is an instruction in what a distinguished commentator has called 'serene vitality' – a dynamic balance of opposites through which the human possibilities can flower. The life of action demands a stern will, alertness and moral flexibility. The life of contemplation calls for compassion, responsiveness and moral reflexivity. And yet, as Coomaraswamy reminds us, each principle finds its fulfillment only in the other.

The publication date of "Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power in the Indian Theory of Government" is fraught with significance. At the height of the freedom struggle, Coomaraswamy already had a premonition of things to come. He had seen the abuse of authority – resulting from the divorce between power and wisdom – at its worst in the British colonial regime. Fearing that this divorce would be replicated in independent India, he offered his book as a gift to the nation in the year Gandhi launched the Quit India movement. Five decades after India achieved independence, it is painfully clear that its author's worst fears have been realised.

Today we have neither kings nor priests. We have politicians who require no consecration, and intellectuals who lack the authority to bestow it. The complete division between the two principles has led to undisguised power lust on the one hand, and impotent rage on the other. This indulgence in the negative passions, among politicians and intellectuals, provides tragic evidence for Coomaraswamy's assertion that national liberation is without meaning unless we learn to govern the self.

The inner meaning of swaraj, swarajya, autonomy – call it what we will – is self governance, conceived of as a moral discipline that brings inward motives and outward actions into accord. Only by liberating ourselves from the desire to control do we become truly free. Self government without this practice of self governance, as Coomaraswamy saw all too clearly, would simply translate as the replacement of foreign structures of domination with indigenous ones.

"The only royal road to power is to become one's own master; the mastery of whatever else follows." wrote Coomaraswamy. This is the traditional secret of government that we appear to have forgotten.

03 June 2009

The Time That Is Given To Us

From the "Lord of the Rings":

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

02 June 2009

Elections 2009: Why Did BJP Lose?

Why did the BJP lose the 2009 elections? Some clues might be found in the following articles:

Swapan Dasgupta
They won all the battles, we had the best songs
Picking up the pieces
This verdict will force leaders to think nationally
Congress won conclusively

Shekhar Gupta
Hindu rate of BJP growth
Hands down

Sudheendra Kulkarni
Why stability won over change

(These are the few political commentators whose views I respect)

30 May 2009

Society, Culture, Politics

The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

29 May 2009

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

From John Ronald Reuel Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings":

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

06 May 2009

Bhagavad Gita: Favourite Shlokas

My favourite shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita:


sukha duhkhe same kRutvA lAbhAlAbhou jayAjayou
tato yuddhAya yujyasva naivam pApam avApsyasi

Making (yourself) the same in happiness and sorrow, gain and loss, victory and defeat,
then engage in battle. Thus you will not incur sin.


yogasthah kuru karmANi sangam tyaktvA dhananjaya
siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhootvA samatvam yoga uchyate

Being in Yoga, perform actions giving up attachment, Dhananjaya,
being the same in success and failure. Sameness is called Yoga.


buddhiyukto jahAteeha ubhe sukRute duShkRute
tasmAd yogAya yujyasva yogah karmasu kouSalam

The intelligent man gives up both good deeds and bad deeds here,
therefore engage in Yoga. Yoga is skill in work.

04 May 2009

Vajpayee, the Right-Wing Leader

In the last three posts I dissected a couple of articles by Atal Behari Vajpayee to get to know his exact views on politics and governance. Now I am struck by the mismatch between the media's portrayal of the man and the real Vajpayee.

The media portrayed Vajpayee mainly as a smiling, amiable man whose only skill was his ability to get along with everybody. But the real Vajpayee, as we have seen, is a different – and much more impressive – person. He comes across as an intelligent and well-read man, who was knowledgeable about the world we live in today, and who had a bold new vision for the country – that was both nationalist and pragmatic. His biggest achievement was to help India break away from the failed ideas of the past – not just in politics, but also in governance and the economy.

The Congress may have fathered India's economic reforms, and the Third Front may have continued them. But they did it reluctantly, more out of necessity than out of conviction. They are left-of-centre or leftist parties, that still haven't gotten over their socialist hangover. The BJP, on the other hand, is a genuine right-wing party that is ideologically commitment to reforms.

Thus it was the BJP that took the reforms to a new level and ensured they are here to stay. And the man most responsible for this is Atal Behari Vajpayee. This contribution of his has been misunderstood, and its magnitude underestimated, both by his critics and his admirers. Vajpayee was a right-wing leader not just because he was a Hindu nationalist, but also because he championed reforms and freedom. Thus he was a true right-wing leader, in the complete sense of the term.

03 May 2009

Reforms, Freedom, Globalisation

In the previous post we saw Vajpayee's right-wing agenda for governance. Though the agenda is quite detailed, full of plans and prescriptions, it is not just an arbitrary collection of proposals. There is a certain coherence, consistency and integrity in it. The agenda is based on a broader vision. If we look closely, this vision consists of some key ideas. These key ideas/concepts are:

1. Reforms
2. Freedom
3. Responsibility
4. Participation
5. Globalisation

To put it in the form of an equation,
Reforms and Freedom (from the government)
Responsibility and Participation (from the people)
Success in the era of Globalisation

Contrast this with Nehru's socialism, where:
Licence-permit-quota raj (from the government) + Mai-baap sarkar mentality (from the people) = Failure.

An interesting parallel: Yuval Levin had proposed a reform manifesto for John McCain in the 2008 US presidential elections.

02 May 2009

A Right-Wing Agenda for Governance

The previous post outlined a right-wing political ideology, in Atal Behari Vajpayee's words. To complete the picture we need a right-wing agenda for governance. Once again Vajpayee shows us the way. Here he is, in his "Musings from Kumarakom" in 2001:

Our first task is to strengthen the awareness that we are one people – sisters and brothers who are children of the great Mother India. Some of our citizens focus too much on one or the other aspect of our diversity, ignoring the common national bonds that unite us.

All citizens and communities have an equal duty to strengthen our national unity and integrity, and to contribute to the nation's progress. In recent times, there has been a tendency to focus more on one's rights, and less on one's duties. This must change.

The time has come to introduce radical developmental reforms, which should encompass, besides economic reforms, administrative and judicial reforms. The most important component of these reforms is to fix transparent accountability at all levels and increase people's involvement in monitoring the functioning of all agencies that impact on development.

This places a far bigger responsibility on our citizens than has been realised by them so far. The habit of looking to the Government for a solution to every problem must give way to a new democratic attitude of fully participating in the Government's efforts and of maximising the scope of non-governmental efforts. This calls for a better work culture, a superior civic culture, strong discipline and a radical shift in the attitude of the citizenry from rights to duties.

Recalling how India became a colony of a foreign trading company in the past, they prophesy that India will again be "sold out" to foreigners if economic reforms are allowed to be continued. This is a ludicrous prophesy. India is an incomparably stronger nation today than when the British colonised us.

The true purpose of economic reforms is to further strengthen our economy, while removing its self-evident weaknesses, so that poverty and unemployment can be removed at a faster pace. We need to broaden and further accelerate the economic reforms, so that our economy becomes sufficiently productive to meet the growing demands of our growing population.

We are living in a world of globalisation, created by the information and communication revolution, global trade and greater inter-dependence among nations. Neither Indian industry nor agriculture can ignore the new competitive global environment in which they are called upon to operate. Our agriculture should be freed from many infrastructural, investment and other constraints that have prevented it from growing to its full potential.

We need to reduce the size of the Government, so that more resources can be channelled for people's welfare and development. We must also reform our labour laws and make them more conducive to faster economic growth and greater employment generation. Some of these are difficult measures, but we cannot shirk away from any of these imperatives.

It is our collective responsibility to devise a national strategy that effectively counters the challenges and seizes the opportunities of globalisation.

Guided by the light of the eternal and universal values of our civilisation, inspired by a modernising vision of national development, and powered by the youthful energy of one billion children of Bharat Mata, we can certainly make the 21st century India's century.

01 May 2009

The BJP's History and Right-Wing Ideology

On the 50th anniversary of India's independence, Atal Behari Vajpayee wrote an essay in "Frontline". In his inimitable way, Vajpayee traces the history of the BJP and in the process, also outlines a genuine right-wing ideology:

India might have had to sacrifice territory at the altar of the Muslim League's communal politics, but like Sardar Patel, many of us were convinced that we would be able to mould what remained of this ancient, timeless land into a modern nation-state, firmly anchored in the republican values of democracy, equality and fraternity.

Soon after, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh was formed, largely with the purpose of floating a nationalist political party that would offer an alternative platform different from that of the Congress.

Meanwhile, the party grew, with more and more people joining it. We began carrying our nationalist message of "One country, one people, one culture" to the farthest corners of India.

The Chinese aggression came as a rude shock to the people and for the first time the Congress began to lose its nationalist appeal. Instead, more and more people turned towards the Bharatiya Jan Sangh's nationalist agenda.

Indira Gandhi's Emergency in 1975 brought the wheels of democracy to a grinding halt. Suddenly, our polity was endangered as never before and dictatorship appeared to be a very real possibility. Since ours was by then a large organisation, our party cadre jumped into the battle against autocracy.

Prior to the merger and the formation of the Janata Party, we had made the relationship between the RSS and some of us very clear to the other leaders. They had emphatically stated that they had no objection to this as the RSS, and here I quote them, "is a cultural organisation devoted to good work". The same RSS, however, was unacceptable to these same people who raised the "dual membership" issue – they went back on their word.

The BJS was reborn as the Bharatiya Janata Party on Good Friday in April 1980.

While the Congress tried to abuse its brute majority in Parliament to impose itself in a most arrogant manner, we regrouped our forces and drew sustenance from our uncompromising commitment to ideology, morality and ethics. Our hard work, relentless campaign against Congress corruption and dedication to the nation paid dividends in the next general election.

Our uncompromising nationalism, our commitment to probity in public life, our war against politics of opportunism, our opposition to pandering to casteism and minorityism gave us the strength to prove these Cassandras wrong.

The Ayodhya movement has no doubt contributed to this success. We joined the movement because Sri Ram epitomises the cultural heritage of all Indians, he symbolises our cultural nationalism. Through this movement, we were able to unleash the suppressed aspirations of millions of Indians and canalise their nationalist fervour towards nation-building.

What has also contributed to our success is our slogan "Justice for all, appeasement of none". The BJP believes in creating a society through able governance where every individual, irrespective of caste, religion or sex, will have a place under the sun; where optimism, opportunity and oneness will provide the impetus for the creation of a strong and prosperous nation.

The spirit of nationalism that spurred our freedom fighters to sacrifice everything for their motherland was sought to be suppressed by the Nehruvian consensus in the decades immediately after Independence. But nationalism cannot be killed by transplanted ideologies or pseudo-ideologies.

I am confident that India will enter the next millennium with its head held high, a strong and prosperous nation, proud of its past and confident of its future as a leading member of the comity of nations. The mantra that will see us yet achieve this goal is the same mantra that ended foreign rule – uncompromising nationalism, nationalism that verges on devotionalism as epitomised by Vande Mataram, nationalism that puts the nation above everything else.

30 April 2009

The Hindutva Debate (contd)

In this month's poll, 9 readers/visitors have selected the option "I am first an Indian, then a Hindu".

Here is a question for these 9 people: What is there in you that is "Indian", but not Hindu?

You can comment on this post, or you can send your answer to me by e-mail.

Btw, nobody responded the last time I called for a debate on Hindutva.

28 April 2009

Dr Raj Kumar and Kannada Culture

Sugata Srinivasaraju of Outlook magazine wrote an excellent profile of Dr Raj Kumar in 2004, calling him a "gentle hero of Kannada culture". Some quotes:

He had acted in 205 Kannada films, one-fourth of all the films ever made until then in that language. Rajkumar has effectively defined Kannada identity.

For the growing number of middle-class Kannada speakers in particular, the actor's simple lifestyle, humility, the liberal humanism in his films, abstention from alcohol and tobacco and a genuine desire to avoid the limelight struck a particularly resonant chord.

A local culture is (now) groping for identity with competition from foreign shores. This may be an outcome of globalisation and commercialisation of culture.

Certainly there continue to be Kannada icons. But these are from sport – like cricketers Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble – and business, like Infosys's N R Narayana Murthy. And their appeal is pan-Indian, even global. There is nothing obviously or uniquely Kannada about them that would make them specifically local heroes.

A process of 'loss' began when various groups like Dalits, farmers, and backward classes began aggressively asserting their identities. The idea of a single hero unifying an entire culture began to wane. This may also be the reason that Karnataka has no tall political leader after Devaraj Urs.

The baton has simply not been passed on, not just with Rajkumar, but in the context of the Kannada language itself. The stagnating readership of Kannada newspapers and sales of Kannada books are strong indicators of this change that has come about.

The revolution in information technology over the past decade has also distracted the Kannada middle class, which formed much of Rajkumar's support base. This middle class amnesia appears to have taken a toll on all that is local.

Rajkumar is the last in a line of icons that once defined Kannada pride at its most visionary and liberal. These included literary giants like D R Bendre, Masti Venkatesh Iyengar, Shivaram Karanth, A N Krishna Shastri and K V Puttappa, and the visionary engineer Sir M Vishweshvarayya.

26 April 2009

Money, Elections and Politics in India

Albert Einstein discovered the mass-energy equivalence in physics, given by the equation E=MC2.

We the people of India have discovered the election-money equivalence in politics, given by the equation E=CM2.
E = Elections
C = Caste
M = Money
Check out these horror stories:

Tamil Nadu:
On an average, ruling party candidates spend Rs 25-30 crore. Other candidates, a minimum of Rs 10 crore. The budget for urban constituencies is higher, with major candidates spending an average of Rs 50 crore. And if the candidate is an ex-minister, a high-profile candidate or the relative of a veteran political leader, then there is no limit.

In the recent Thirumangalam assembly by-election in Tamil Nadu the DMK is said to have spent around Rs 80 crore. So when the stakes are high, purses are wide open.

Andhra Pradesh:
"I am a Congress legislator from coastal Andhra Pradesh, having won for the first time in 2004. My constituency has around 1.5 lakh voters. My task began with identifying a local pointsman, a party sympathiser, in every village. He costs Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000. In turn, he picks two youths for each booth, which on average has 1,000 voters. They have to be paid Rs 10,000 each."

"Reaching 14 lakh voters spread in 1,600 booths in 240 gram panchayats of eight Assembly segments in the LS constituency located in central Karnataka region was not an easy job. I spent Rs 17 crore last time."

21 April 2009

A Brief History of Hindutva - 3

A Brief History of Hindutva

The trigger came in the form of a temple, in one of the holiest cities of the land. The temple had been destroyed almost 500 years ago to make way for a mosque. Now the people of the country wanted their temple back. The temple was important in itself, yes. But it was even more important as a symbol. A symbol of our great religion, civilisation and history. A symbol of the thousand years of barbarism inflicted upon us. A symbol of the need to end the nonsense called secularism and once again stand up as who we are.

What followed was a national movement of epic proportions – the greatest since the freedom struggle. The campaign for the temple created a new awakening. Indians started calling themselves by their true name: Hindus. No more apologising. No more feeling guilty or defensive for being the "majority community". We are Hindus. This is our country and our culture. And we will fight to take it back.

The movement created a tidal wave of nationalist fervour. The wave swept the nationalist political party, which had only 2 seats in a 545-strong Parliament, to power within just 15 years. The party may have lost later, and may be struggling today: with its own weaknesses and failings, and also with the division of Hindus by caste and language. But Hindu nationalism had taken a giant step, from which there was no going back.

A new threshold had been created, best illustrated by the temple/mosque question itself. The pulling down of the mosque was a violation of the rule of law, no doubt. But even the incident's most vehement critics were not proposing that the mosque be rebuilt. The debate had been taken to a new level.

A new spirit had dawned. Indians were now proud to be Hindus. An ancient truth was embraced: India is a Hindu nation, a Hindu rashtra. For a long time, this had been the chant of lonely voices in the wilderness. Now a sizeable section of the population accepted it. The people were finally beginning to call a spade a spade.

True, the journey has only just begun. There is still a long way to go. Hindutva is not yet the dominant ideology. But it is no longer a fringe ideology either. It is now one of the competing ideologies. Meanwhile the nationalist organisation continues its work – slowly, silently, but surely. It may take 10 years, 50 years or 100 years. But succeed we will. Victory shall be ours. Mother India shall once again sit on the throne she once adorned. Our Mother India – smiling, beautiful, radiant and glorious – giving light to the world and hope to mankind. It is only a matter of time.


20 April 2009

A Brief History of Hindutva - 2

A Brief History of Hindutva

When Gandhi became the supreme leader of the freedom struggle, it should have meant the triumph of Hindu nationalism. For he was a deeply religious Hindu, proud of his country's ancient heritage. But it was not to be. For some reasons, Gandhi did not have the confidence to make Hindu-ness, or Hindutva, the basis of Indian nationalism. The ideological vacuum was filled by Nehru (Gandhi's closest follower and chosen heir) with his secularism and socialism. It was left to a doctor from Nagpur to found an organisation that would keep alive the flame of true Indian nationalism. Hindutva, which should have been the dominant, mainstream ideology was instead marginalised and banished to the fringes.

In 1947, after half a century of struggle, India became free. Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last! But the moment was bitter-sweet. Along with the joy came shock, horror and anguish. Mother India, our beautiful Mother India, was torn apart. Her right and left arms were chopped off from her body. Meanwhile the Congress became the dominant political party of independent India. It had disregarded the advice of its patron saint to disband itself. Enjoying a virtual hegemony, it imposed Nehru's secularism and socialism on the nation.

The nationalist organisation meanwhile soldiered on, now led by a zoologist-turned-sanyasi. In 1949, Nehru signed a pact with Pakistan agreeing to set up a "Minority Commission" and guaranteeing "minority rights" in the country. This shocking compromise with the nation's sovereignty, unity and integrity was the trigger for the birth of a nationalist political party, which had the blessings of the sanyasi.

For the next four decades the Congress ruled the country, implementing its "secularism", which in practice meant:
– Dividing the country into "majority" and "minority" communities, instead of uniting the country as one.
– Giving special rights to minorities, instead of giving equal rights to all citizens regardless of religion.
– Turning a blind eye to minority communalism, while branding any talk of majority welfare as "fascism".
– Creating and nurturing minority vote banks, while doing nothing to solve their genuine problems.
– Appeasing minority fundamentalists, and creating a separatist mindset in the minds of the minority.

During the freedom struggle and at the time of Independence, Indians had not embraced their identity as Hindus, preferring Nehru's secularism instead. Gradually they realised that something was seriously wrong with this "secularism", that this country was on the wrong track, and that they were being made fools of. As the cynicism and manipulations of the rulers continued unabated, the country started boiling beneath the surface. A correction became overdue. All that was needed was a trigger.

19 April 2009

A Brief History of Hindutva - 1

A Brief History of Hindutva

For almost the whole of the second millennium, India was invaded, conquered and ruled by people from other lands – the Turks, Mughals and British – who brought with them their violence and intolerance. During this period India, and her soul – Hinduism, was bruised, battered and broken. Indians were subjected to a thousand years of atrocities, massacres, persecution and oppression. The result was they forgot their true greatness, their true history and their true identity. In short, they forgot who they were. Indian society limped along, barely surviving and holding on to its traditions. Then, in the 19th century, when the night seemed to be at its darkest, an awakening began. Seers appeared, telling Indians who they really were and reminding them of their true genius. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Dayanand Saraswati were the pioneers. They were followed by Swami Vivekananda and Aurobindo Ghosh. They all said the same thing. Their message was very simple:

"We are Hindus. Ours is the oldest surviving civilisation on earth. Our way of life is 5000 years old. For almost 4000 years, Hindu civilisation was the greatest civilisation in the world – having attained the heights of both material prosperity and spiritual progress. But we didn't keep our wealth to ourselves; we shared it with the world. We gave the world our knowledge and culture. We gave the world our philosophy, science, mathematics, art and literature. We gave the world lofty thoughts and noble ideals. For centuries this sacred land, Mother India, was the light of the world. But now she is in chains. And you, her children, have forgotten your true nature. Arise, o lions! You are descendants of gods and goddesses, sages and saints, kings and warriors. Arise, free your Motherland! Rediscover your true spirit and lost genius. Take your Mother to the heights of glory she once commanded. And be the shining light to the world that you always were. This is your role, this is your duty, this is your destiny."

Indians woke up and heeded the call. But the awakening was partial. The people did start fighting for their country's freedom. But the other half of the message – the message of Hindu nationalism – was ignored by the leaders of the freedom struggle. They were city-bred lawyers, products of the British education system. They were Macaulay's children: "a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and intellect". They didn't want to have anything to do with the word "Hindu". Only one leader, Tilak, embraced Hindu nationalism.

14 April 2009

What Should I Do With My Life?

Excerpts from Po Bronson's book "What Should I Do With My Life?" (2003):

Asking The Question aspires to end the conflict between who you are and what you do. There is nothing more brave than filtering out the chatter that tells you to be someone you're not. There is nothing more genuine than breaking away from the chorus to learn the sound of your own voice. Asking The Question is nothing short of an act of courage: It requires a level of commitment and clarity that is almost foreign to our working lives.

The ruling assumption is that money is the shortest route to freedom. Absurdly, that strategy is cast as the "practical approach." But in truth, the opposite is true. The shortest route to the good life involves building the confidence that you can live happily within your means (whatever the means provided by the choices that are truly acceptable to you turn out to be).

Avoiding crap shouldn't be the objective in finding the right work. The right question is, How can I find something that moves my heart, so that the inevitable crap storm is bearable?

Every industry has a culture. And every culture is driven by a value system. One of the most common mistakes is not recognising how these value systems will shape you. People think that they can insulate themselves, that they're different. They're not. The relevant question in looking at a job is not What will I do? but Who will I become? What belief system will you adopt, and what will take on heightened importance in your life?

Not everything has to go right in order for it to work. His backup plans do not lead to different destinations, such as "If I don't get into business school, I'll be a schoolteacher." His backup plans lead to the same destination, and if he has to arrive late by a back road, that's fine.

12 April 2009

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Summary of Steve Jobs' commencement address at Stanford University (2005):

Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish. I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

11 April 2009

On Media, News and Journalism

In 1958 legendary radio and TV journalist Edward R Murrow gave a speech to the RTNDA* about the state of the American news media. Many of the things he said are relevant for the Indian media (print and electronic) today:

The elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies and sponsors will not be shaken or altered.

That your voice is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or understanding than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other.

I am seized with an abiding fear regarding what these two instruments (radio and television) are doing to our society, our culture and our heritage.

If there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or colour, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live.

One of the basic troubles with radio and television news is that both instruments have grown up as an incompatible combination of show business, advertising and news. Each of the three is a rather bizarre and demanding profession. And when you get all three under one roof, the dust never settles.

Or do we believe that the preservation of the Republic is a seven-day-a-week job, demanding more awareness, better skills and more perseverance than we have yet contemplated?

I am frightened by the imbalance, the constant striving to reach the largest possible audience for everything; by the absence of a sustained study of the state of the nation.

If the sponsor always, invariably, reaches for the largest possible audience, then this process of insulation, of escape from reality, will continue to be massively financed, and its apologist will continue to make winsome speeches about giving the public what it wants, or "letting the public decide".

*Radio-Television News Directors Association

10 April 2009

Rajiv Gandhi's "Power Brokers" Speech

At the centenary session of the Congress in 1985, Rajiv Gandhi delivered the inaugural speech in which he lashed out against his own party, calling it a party of power brokers. An excerpt:

But they (party workers) are handicapped, for on their backs ride the brokers of power and influence, who dispense patronage to convert a mass movement into a feudal oligarchy. They are self-perpetuating cliques who thrive by invoking the slogans of caste and religion and by enmeshing the living body of the Congress in their net of avarice.

For such persons the masses do not count. Their lifestyle, their thinking - or the lack of it, their self-aggrandisement, their corrupt ways, their linkages with the vested interests in society, and their sanctimonious posturing are wholly incompatible with work among the people. They are reducing the Congress organisation to a shell from which the spirit of service and sacrifice has been emptied.

We talk of the high principles and lofty ideals needed to build a strong and prosperous India. But we obey no discipline, no rule; follow no principle of public weal. Corruption is not only tolerated but even regarded as the hallmark of leadership. Flagrant contradiction between what we say and what we do has become our way of life.

09 April 2009


From Shibumi (1979) by Trevanian. A conversation between General Kishikawa and Nicholai Hel:

"He is a man who has all my respect. He possesses a quality of... how to express it?... of shibumi."

"Shibumi, sir?" Nicholai knew the word, but only as it applied to gardens or architecture, where it connoted an understated beauty. "How are you using the term, sir?"

"Oh, vaguely. And incorrectly, I suspect. A blundering attempt to describe an ineffable quality. As you know, shibumi has to do with great refinement underlying commonplace appearances. It is a statement so correct that it does not have to be bold, so poignant it does not have to be pretty, so true it does not have to be real. Shibumi is understanding, rather than knowledge. Eloquent silence. In demeanour, it is modesty without pudency. In art, where the spirit of shibumi takes the form of sabi, it is elegant simplicity, articulate brevity. In philosophy, where shibumi emerges as wabi, it is spiritual tranquility that is not passive; it is being without the angst of becoming. And in the personality of a man, it is... how does one say it? Authority without domination? Something like that."

Nicholai's imagination was galvanised by the concept of shibumi. No other ideal had ever touched him so. "How does one achieve this shibumi, sir?"

"One does not achieve it, one... discovers it. And only a few men of infinite refinement ever do that. Men like my friend Otake-san."

"Meaning that one must learn a great deal to arrive at shibumi?"

"Meaning, rather, that one must pass through knowledge and arrive at simplicity."

From that moment, Nicholai's primary goal in life was to become a man of shibumi; a personality of overwhelming calm.

Although they spoke late into their last night together about what shibumi meant and might mean, in the deepest essential they did not understand one another. To the General, shibumi was a kind of submission; to Nicholai, it was a kind of power.

Both were captives of their generations.

06 April 2009

Maharashtra Yatra - 2

8th January (contd)

Ellora is about 35 km from Aurangabad. It's about 500 years later than Ajanta. It has Buddhist, Hindu and Jain caves spread over some 2 km. We were shown only the four most important ones: caves 10, 12, 16 and 32. Cave 10 was a Chaitya, cave 12 a Vihara, cave 16 the great Kailasa temple and cave 32 a Jain cave. The guide's explanations help you appreciate what you are seeing. Kailasa temple is truly a marvel of India, second perhaps only to the Taj. You can't believe it's carved out of a single rock. After Ellora, we visited the nearby Grihneshwara, the 12th Jyotirlinga temple. The Linga is ancient, but the outer temple was built by Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore in the 18th century. Males who enter the sanctum sanctorum have to go in topless. We finished the tour with a visit to Bibi-ka-Muqbara, tomb of Aurangzeb's wife in Aurangabad. It's modelled on the Taj Mahal. It was evening when we got back. I checked my mail, had dinner, checked out of the hotel and boarded my bus to Bombay.

9th January

I got off at Dadar, took a train to Andheri and reached Kaddi's house by 7:30 am. The poor fellow had been woken up an hour earlier by a phone call from my dad. I had my bath, packed up and left for Dadar to deposit my luggage in a locker/cloakroom while I saw more of Bombay till 3:15 pm, when my train would leave for Nagpur. At Dadar, the TT told me that cloakroom was available only in VT, now CST. In Bombay, everything has been renamed as either VJ (Veermata Jeejabai) or CS (Chhatrapati Shivaji). I sighed and boarded a train to VT, where I did find a cloakroom. But it accepted only locked luggage. So I left my suitcase (which had a lock) and took my kit (which didn't have a lock) with me. I came outside and admired the station. Right across is the Corporation HQ, another beautiful building from the British era. Took a cab to Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, now the CS Vastu Sangrahalay.

I had 90 minutes to see the museum, 30 minutes for each floor. Check out the beautiful section on Indian miniature art. From the museum it was a 30-minute walk back to VT. Along the way, I saw the Rajabai Tower (tallest tower in the city), Stock Exchange and GPO. At VT, boarded a train to Dadar. I arrived 30 minute before the Sewagram Express to Nagpur was to depart. Amitesh and Nattu were waiting for me outside our coach. We spent the journey catching up with what each of us had been upto in the last 1.5-2 years. I wasn't too sad to leave Bombay. At first sight it's quite depressing: slums, poverty, filth. Especially for someone from Bangalore. But the people are nice and helpful. Not like Delhi.

10th January

The train reached 5 minutes early, at 7:15 am. There was supposed to be a guy from the hotel to pick us up. We called up Suchit, found out where the hotel was, and took an auto. At the hotel, we bathed and left as early as we could – the wedding was at 10 am. On the way we had to get the gift packed, which took quite a long time. The baraat arrived at the hall shortly after we reached there. The wedding was over quite quickly. We had lunch there and left for the railway station, where Amitesh had to book a ticket for Ahmedabad. Then we went to our hotel. Amitesh left at 6:30 pm, Nattu left an hour later. I was left alone.

11th January

There's nothing of note to see in Nagpur. There is one fort, but it's open to the public only on January 26 and August 15. So I left for Ramtek, 50 km away. There's a Rama-Lakshmana temple there, to commmemorate their stay in that place. The temple is on top of a hill; the climb reminded me of the View-Point at Ajanta. There's also a Kalidasa Smaraka nearby, still under construction. Apparently, Kalidasa lived here for some time and wrote some of his works. It was afternoon by the time I returned to Nagpur. I boarded a bus to Wardha, 80 km away. Gandhiji's ashram (Bapukuti) at Sewagram is a short distance from Wardha. Near the ashram is a Gandhi exhibition. I then returned to Nagpur.

12th January

Woke up at 4 am, packed up, checked out and reached the railway station at 5 am to board the Gorakhpur-Bangalore Express at 5:25 am. I needn't have bothered; the train was 2 hours late. I bought a magazine to kill the time. Finally the train arrived. It was the only boring part of my journney. Maybe I was fed up – it was my third train journey in 8 days. Thankfully it reached Bangalore in time the next day, at 10:30 am. Then back to Tumkur for a long sleep!